Japanese school uniform for middle school and high school students appeared in Japan in the late 1800s and was first worn to replace the traditional Japanese kimono during a hot summer. The kimono jacket or women's kimono are certainly aesthetically pleasing and traditional, but they adhere to a number of dress codes that can be restrictive when worn on a daily basis... 

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You maybe have seen this Japanese outfit worn by video games character, or in some Anime or manga. The japanese seaman's uniform is also named as seifuku. 

The sailor fuku is inspired by the British Royal Navy uniforms of the time. It is immediately recognizable with its distinctive sailor collar, ribbon and pleated skirt.

History of the Japanese uniform

The Gakushuin Private School was the first to require students to wear this Japanese uniform in 1879... The uniform consisted of a hat, pants and a classic jacket with a stand-up collar!

Also, in 1886, school uniforms were imposed in the Tokyo Imperial University. This Japanese uniform for men is called a gakuran. It was not until 1920 that the sailor fuku as we know it was created by Elizabeth Lee for women. Initially this uniform was specifically used by Japanese private schools. Then it was very widely democratized from 1930 in other high schools and colleges for all girls and boys.

The different types of clothing

The different types of Japanese uniforms

 

The uniform is a way to erase social differences.Students are required to wear their uniforms whether they are in public or private schools. The objective is to create a sense of belonging for students. There are three versions, summer, winter and sports dress style to wear uniforms: 

  • Japanese sports uniform: in summer, students wear shorts and a t-shirt. Depending on the weather and especially in winter high school and college students can add a hoodie or a polyester sweatshirt to keep warm...
  • Japanese summer uniform: these days, it's a straight pants for the boys with a white shirt. While girls wear a marinière with a scarf (bow tie, short tie or ribbon)
  • The Japanese winter uniform: it consists of a skirt or pants. And the top of the outfit includes a Japanese sweater, a vest (parka or coat)

The different models of Japanese uniforms

If you like the authentic style of the Japanese uniforms then dérences between these outfits of coli:

  • The dress uniform: it is worn especially during the summer. The length of this dress stops below the knee. During the winter, it is worn with a long sleeve shirt. During the summer, a short-sleeved shirt will be preferred.
  • The uniform à Boléro: it is rarely worn nowadays because it is too rare for Japanese women trends
  • The strapless uniform: this is a style that is seen in the schools. Little girls wear a navy blue pleated skirt
  • The uniform with a blazer: students also add a ribbon or tie. The blazer has an embroidered crest (gold button) at the chest
  • Jumper Skirt Uniform: this style is very popular for dressing up with a kawaii (cute) look
  • Unisex Uniform: some schools offer a new uniform for both men and women. The wearing totally identical outfits further limits the differences they believe for school students

How to wear the Fuku sailor

Wearing it every day, you may want to modify it to reflect your own style or individuality (even if it is against the rules). One of the most common modifications girls like to make to their uniforms is to roll up the top of their Japanese skirt to make it shorter, in order to look cuter or more seductive.

It's also possible to make the top of the skirt shorter, in order to make it look like it's more comfortable.

It is also possible to customize it discreetly by adding a patchwork.

The uniforms also vary from school to school. There is a certain level of pride associated with wearing the uniform. Some schools even have uniforms that are designed to attract more students!

You can wear a pair of derbies (booties) with your uniform for a casual, yet dressy look.

Sailor Fuku in popular culture

The sailor uniform has become a symbol of cuteness, youth, and innocence in Japanese pop culture...

One thinks in particular à Sailor Moon and its emblematic Sailor Suit. This manga outfit is inspired by the uniform of Usagi Tsukino high school in terms of color and design.

It is fictional œuvres like these that have established the classic image of the "sailor fuku" in our minds.

The sailor fuku and Japanese fashion

But that's not all. The sailor uniform is a cultural phenomenon that has made its way not only into pop culture but also into fashion.

The most popular Japanese fashion brands are incorporating the look of the sailor uniform into their products, from coats to tops. They subtly and tastefully feature details such as a sailor collar and sleeves.

There are also some of the most popular Japanese products.

There are also true sailor uniforms with fantastic pastel colors and trendy prints.

Japanese uniforms and Sukeban

 

Other modifications include sukeban (girl dé in Japanese culture). Sukeban style consists of sewing fabric to lengthen the skirt, rolling up the sleeves, dyeing the hair and wearing a Japanese mask at all times. The sugekan sailor suit also came with a pair of converse sneakers...

If you don't see the connection between the Sukeban and the traditional suit of écolière then you absolutely must see Quentin Tarantino's movie Kill Bill. The character of Gogo Yubari is a dangerous Sukeban. Here is the origin of these Japanese girls who wore the uniform in the 70s...

The sukeban was a truly unique subculture in Japanese society, one that has unfortunately been forgotten and its original purpose changed. The term "sukeban" was coined by the Japanese police to categorize and explain the rise of all-female street gangs in the 1960s.

The term "sukeban" was coined by the Japanese police to categorize and explain the rise of all-female street gangs.

Signifying "daughter rebel" or "girl boss," sukeban were groups of teenage girls who protested against society through their altercationist ways, radical solidarity, and involvement in such delinquencies as violence, theft, and drug use. But these rebellious girl gangs used their actions and fashion to prove that being strong and being a woman was not a contradiction in terms.

They protested against dominant gender norms and feminine expectations in a male-dominated society. The idea of a woman "misbehaving" runs counter to gender norms about how a woman is supposed to act, and provides an exciting way to challenge society. Furthermore, the expectations of how a woman dresses with a strict and sexist dress code, and the sukeban were no longer going to accept this.

The main challenge to the sukeban began with their school uniforms. Western navy-style uniforms were seen as a symbol of undesirable and restrictive tradition. Popularized by the educational system in the early 20th century, these sailor-style uniforms (seifuku) became undesirable for young girls in Japan in the turbulent 1970s.

So, it is important to remember that the sailor-style uniforms are not just a symbol of tradition.

Cosplay costume Japanese student

So wearing a sailor fuku outfit is a great choice for a disguise for a night out or for Halloween. For a current Harajuku look, opt for an ensemble consisting of a mini skirt.

If you want to fully immerse yourself in the Japanese culture while being sexy and feminine then wearing a sukeban style outfit will be ideal to cover the Japanese school world... The sailor fuku is a special outfit for women to absolutely have in her dresser or dressing room. 

To perfect your outfit add Japanese accessories like a katana sword, personalized embroidery, a Japanese mask etc.

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